Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Connecting the dots...

Columbia's newest village, River Hill, is not really even in Columbia; according to it's ZIP Code, the neighborhood is in Clarksville, making it our satellite village.

Reaching the River Hill via Columbia's internal network of pathways is currently impossible. To be sure, the Columbia Association built paths within the village, but because of a large natural barrier--the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area--there are no connections to the larger system. This may change.

At a recent Columbia Association board of directors meeting, a decision was made to draft a formal letter to Gary J. Arthur, director of the county's Department of Recreation and Parks, asking whether the association could create a pathway system on the county-owned land.

Joshua Feldmark, chairman of the association board, said the issue of connecting River Hill with the rest of Columbia has been raised for several years and was added to a strategic initiative last year.

"It was the board's desire to connect all of Columbia via pathways," Feldmark said, adding that "the coolest thing about Columbia is that you can use the pathways or a sidewalk or two and you can get from one place in Columbia to another."

Not only are the pathways "cool," but they are part of the package that you pay for when buying into Columbia. The annual fees you pay to CA help maintain these paths, and therefore it's only fair that all residents have equal access to the entire network.

That said, one has to wonder why a connection was never planned for River Hill, despite the village always being a part of the Columbia vision. This lack of foresight is especially troubling given the difficulty of bridging the distance (and river) between the satellite and the mainland.

This week, Chick Rhodehamel, Columbia Association vice president for open-space management, mentioned the difficulty of building the pathways system on conservation land.

"The environmental area is a sensitive area, and you just can't go and add asphalt there," he said.

Unfortunately, the environment many not be the only, um, pathblock.

Arthur said plans for building a pathways system on the land would require discussions with the Middle Patuxent Environmental Foundation, the group assigned to oversee the land.

..."It has to be discussed with the foundation, and we have to look at funding within the county capital budget," he said.

"And it has to go through the county executive and council," Arthur added.

So, in addition to environmental issues, the path would need approval from the county and the Middle Patuxent Environmental Foundation before being built. Add to this laundry list the facts that such a path would be very expensive and probably underutilized, and the outlook for the connection grows dimmer.

Sorry, River Hill, but at least you have the nicest gym.

No comments: